Three Illinois State players were named first-team selections by the Missouri Valley Football Conference Monday.
Running back James Robinson, wide receiver Spencer Schnell and safety Luther Kirk were lauded by the league as first-team members. Meanwhile, offensive tackle Drew Himmelman and defensive back Devin Taylor landed on the second team.
Special team standouts J.T. Bohlken, Christian Uphoff and Paul Monaco were tabbed as honorable-mention picks.
According to GoRedbirds.com, Robinson, led the MVFC with 1,290 rushing yards and tied for second in the league with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Rockford native averaged 117.3 yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry as a junior in 2018 and posted a pair of 200-plus yard rushing performances. The Walter Payton Award finalist recorded six 100-plus yard rushing efforts and scored multiple touchdowns in four contests throughout the season. Robinson was named MVFC Offensive Player of the Week, after rushing for a career-best 256 yards and two scores in the season finale vs. Youngstown State and also ran for 202 yards and a score against Southern Illinois.
Schnell capped off his Redbird career by leading the Redbirds and the MVFC in receptions with 65. The Elkhart, Ind. native ranked second in the league with 872 receiving yards and nine touchdowns and averaged 13.4 yards per catch. He recorded three 100-plus yard receiving performances, including a season-best 174 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns against Eastern Illinois. Schnell also caught a pair of touchdowns at Missouri State and Indiana State and served as the team's primary punt returner and holder, averaging 8.7 yards per return.
”It’s always an honor to be selected member of any all-conference team in the MVFC. Being the best conference in FCS it means a lot to get the honor. The competitiveness and amount of great athletes in this conference speaks for itself,” Schnell told Prairie State Pigskin.
One of four 2018 team captains, Kirk started all 11 games at safety after sitting out the 2017 season. The Garland, Tex. native tied for the MVFC lead with five interceptions and ranked second on the team with 61 tackles, including 34 solo stops, and added three pass breakups. He returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown in a win over Western Illinois and had a career-high 10 tackles at UNI to highlight a strong junior season.
Himmelman earned All-MVFC second-team honors, after being named to the league's all-newcomer team as a freshman last year. The Geneseo, Illinois, native started all 11 games at left tackle and was a critical part of the offensive line unit that made ISU the third-best scoring offense in the conference. He led the way for Robinson's success running the football and was named the MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week, after helping Robinson and Markel Smith each rush for over 100 yards as the Redbirds tallied a season-best 409 yards on the ground in a victory over Southern Illinois.
Taylor also earned his first MVFC All-Conference recognition, after leading the MVFC in passes defended with 15 (12 breakups, 3 interceptions). The Lansing, Michigan, native ranks No. 6 in the FCS with 1.4 passes defended per game and tied for third on the team with 51 tackles, including 32 solo stops. Taylor was named MVFC Defensive Player of the Week, after recording eight tackles and one of his three interceptions on the season in a win at Colorado State.
Bohlken, Uphoff and Monaco each earned their first conference recognitions as well, after starring on special teams for the Redbirds. Bohlken ranked second in the MVFC with a 43.1 yard punting average and led the league with 20 punts over 50 yards. Uphoff ranks No. 17 in the FCS and No. 1 in the MVFC with a 26.1 yard kick return average and Monaco served as the team's primary long and short snapper throughout the season for the Redbirds.